Results for category "Film Reviews"

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn ****

Running time: 106 mins  Certificate: PG

Synopsis: Belgian reporter Tintin (Bell) is on the trail of a lost family fortune with his new friend Captain Haddock (Serkis).


It has been a few years since Spielberg has made a movie. Some will think that he was hiding for making the atrocious fourth installment of Indiana Jones, when in fact the director has been crafting his first foray in the world of 3-D motion capture.


A young reporter, Tintin buys a model ship called the Unicorn is approached by a sinister gentleman Sakharine who also wants the ship. Tintin learns that the Unicorn was a 17th-century warship captained by Sir Francis Haddock, and that Sakharine may be trying to locate Sir Francis’s treasure. Tintin and the alcoholic Captain Haddock (a descendant of Sir Francis) along with his faithful dog, Snowy must try and solve the mystery before Sakharine can reach the treasure first.


What a vast improvement from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. This is what the last Indy film should have been, a rollicking humorous rollercoaster ride with stunning set pieces. Not only that but it also feels like an Indy movie with several references to the archaeologists previous installments.


Spielberg also appears to be giving nods to his other movies from a Jaws gag to the Catch Me If You Can style credit sequence. This is a clearly a rejuvenated director who is showing that he is still as creative as he was in the 80’s.


The plot is based on various elements from Belgian artist Herge’s famous Tintin graphic novels, The Secret of the Unicorn, The Crab With the Golden Claws and a Red Rackham’s Treasure. The screenplay by Moffat, Wright and Cornish is humorous and inventive, but some fans of the comic strip maybe upset that they have taken a few liberties with some areas. At times it can be a little confusing to follow especially during the action scenes.


Performance wise, Jamie Bell makes the usually dull central character pretty interesting. Andy Serkis yet again shows he is the king of motion capture performance art with his funny and wacky take on Captain Haddock. While Daniel Craig appears to be having lots of fun in his villainous role of Sakharine. The real star has to be said is Snowy who has the best comic and action orientated moments.


Motion capture has always been a fairly lifeless affair in the movies. Robert Zemeckis tried to breathe life into his characters, but they suffered from the infamous dead eyes look. Thankfully Spielberg and Weta have resolved this problem with characters that show more emotion than Harrison Ford and Shia LaBeouf did throughout Indy 4. There are moments that the animation is so convincing that it is easy to forget that the movie is an animated film.


Herge had always maintained that Steven Spielberg was the only director capable of making a successful adaptation of his work. It appears that he was right, as the end result is a charming, fun old-fashioned action adventure. Peter Jackson has a lot to live up to for the planned sequel.

Reviewed by Paul Logan 

You Instead **


Running time: 80 mins  Certificate: 15

Synopsis: Two feuding Indie rock stars Adam (Treadaway) and Morello (Tena) get handcuffed together for 24 hours at a music festival where they are both due to perform.


It must of seemed like a good idea at the time. Basically to make a movie based around one of the most popular past times over the Summer months, going to a music festival. But the film is more damp than a Glastonbury farmer’s field.


The basic premise is intriguing enough and could have been quite interesting. But the filmmaker’s really don’t really know what the movie is supposed to be. Is it a Woodstock style documentary revolving around Scotland’s T in the Park festival or is a romantic comedy. There is more stock footage showing bands and audiences than anything else. This could be the reason why the script is so underdeveloped.


Apart from the two leads, the secondary characters are more like scenery than drive the plot forward. Although the boy group The Make’s manager Bobby played by Still Game’s Gavin Mitchell, is probably the most fleshed out character here. He is also the most amusing and entertaining.  While Horrible Histories’ Mathew Baynton tries hard to make something interesting with his role as Tyco, but the material lets him down. The leads are a mixed bag of talent with only Harry Potter’s Natalia Tena giving a memorable performance, while her co-star Luke Treadaway has one of the most uncovincing American accents in the past year.


Even the music is pretty forgettable, but quite well performed. The decision to make the sound of both bands to be 80’s influenced seems like a strange decision. Surely having different styles of music would bring more tension to the complicated relationship between the two rock stars. It all seems dated as reinassiance in 80’s style music happened several years ago with Franz Ferdinand and the Kaiser Chiefs.


Sigma films usually make unusual intersesting choices in what they bring to the screen, but unfortunately this is not one of them. No plot, underdeveloped boring characters and a predicatable romance. Not even the music will help you remember this film. 

Reviewed by Paul Logan 

Jane Eyre **


Running time: 120 mins  Certificate: PG

Synopsis: Dowdy Jane Eyre (Mia Wasikowska), an orphan raised and mistreated in a boarding school, becomes a governess for the brooding Mr Rochester (Michael Fassbender).  A tentative relationship develops, but Rochester has a dark secret


Every time an interesting actress comes along they get shoved into a bonnet and corset before they know what’s hit them.  Look at Nicole Kidman who started out as a flame-haired BMX Bandit, high school ninja, firing distress flares into Billy Zane’s head, before Hollywood bleach blondified her and put her in crap like ‘Far and Away’ (Ron Howard 1992).  


Now it is Mia Wasikowska’s turn.  The beautiful Wasikowska, so good in HBO’s ‘In Treatment’ and the Oscar nominated ‘The Kids Are All Right’ (Lisa Cholodenko 2010) tries hard to look plain as literature’s most famous doormat.  She is fine here, but as with ‘Alice in Wonderland’ (Tim Burton 2010) she looks uncomfortable.  It could be the whalebone corset of course, but there’s a definite feeling of awkwardness present in her performance.  Ditto Michael Fassbender, who is better suited to contemporary pieces like his work with Steve McQueen. 


This version of ‘Jane Eyre’ does nothing innovative with the novel.  There is no need for it to exist. Amy Heckerling turned Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’ into ‘Clueless,’ (1995) to make it one of the best teen movies of the 90’s.  She modernised the material and made it seem fresh and interesting.  Director Cary Fukunaga’s approach is restrained to the point of inertia.  Inevitably there will be another version along shortly.  Please do something different.  Set it in space, or give Jane a comedy monkey sidekick, make it a porno, or cast it withMuppets. Anything except this, again, and again, and again. 

by Kevin Sturton

Rise of the Planet of the Apes: ****

Running time: 105 mins  Certificate: 12A

Synopsis: Scientist Will Rodman is researching a cure for Alzheimer’s. He takes home Caesar a baby chimpanzee after its test subject mother is destroyed. Will discovers that the chimp shows levels of high intelligence. But after attacking a neighbour, Caesar is placed into an ape facility where he learns the struggle of his own kind.


An odd choice of a franchise to resurrect from the dead, since Fox’s last attempt was a critical failure. But Tim Burton’s underrated re-imagining of the classic Planet of the Apes did make a fair chunk of change at the worldwide box office over 10 years ago.


Now it is British director Rupert Wyatt’s turn after his impressive debut with the prison drama The Escapist. As with most of these reboots the decision has been made to start from the beginning and how the apes became the superior race of the Earth. This works incredibly well as we have been given a little back-story from the original and the mediocre sequels, but we now know the full extent to how these animals became so intelligent.


The pace of the whole piece is relentless without hindering the overall plot. Within the opening scenes we are treated to an escaped chimp running amok throughout the facility. Then to Caesar’s overall frustration in trying to becoming human and after being turned over to the ape facility learns that he is a completely different creature. These scenes have genuinely touching moments that will move the audience.


This could have failed miserably if it were not for the astounding performances not only from the ape performers, but also from AndySerkis who has become a CGI character genius. The emotion and physical expressions that he gives to Caesar are bewildering in that the character feels and looks incredibly real. It will be very surprising if he is not on the nomination list for Best Supporting Actor at next year’s Oscars.


Weta have created absolutely breathtaking special effects, whether it is the character of Caesar or the amazing finale of a full ape uprising in downtown San Francisco.


The human characters are almost as good as their animal counterparts. Tom Felton proves that there is more to his career than Harry Potter with another nasty evil juvenile character. John Lithgow gives a heartbreaking subtlety to the role of the father. James Franco shows that he could be the next eccentric male character actor to hit the big time after Johnny Depp. Only Freida Pinto fails to impress, but this may be due to her fairly underwritten role of the love interest.


Not only is the surprise of the Summer, it is also one of the films of year and possibly the best of the franchise. Please Fox do not take another 10 years to make a follow up and while your at it give the job to Wyatt.

Reviewed by Paul Logan 

Cowboys & Aliens: ***

Running time: 118 mins  Certificate: 12A

Synopsis: In Arizona, 1873, Jake Lonergan (Craig) awakes up with no memory, a strange wound and a  manacle on one wrist. He discovers he’s a wanted criminal and was abducted by demons. The people of Absolution’s have been kidnapped by these creatures. Jake with town boss Woodrow Dolarhyde (Ford) will try and rescue the town’s folk.


The in thing with Hollywood at the moment is mashing up different genres to give a slightly different viewing experience to audiences instead of doing the usual remake or sequel. A stellar cast, capable director and some heavyweight producers give the film some clout, but is it entertaining enough?


When the film was announced it sounded like it was going to be extremely fun, but unfortunately this is not the case. The plot like the title is pretty silly and should have been an amusing take on the Western genre. What we have here is a far out concept that is taken way to seriously for it’s own good. The decision to make this a serious action film rather than something amusing in the way of Snakes on a Plane, almost singlehandedly destroys the tone of the film completely.


The first half has to be said is pretty good and sets the story up well with a mixture of impressive effects, exciting action and a few funny scenes along the way. But once we meet the Native American characters the film falls apart with so many questions asked and very few answered. Why Jake is given a weapon by the creatures that can destroy them seems very stupid and poorly conceived. While the less said about the terrible plot twist in the middle the better.


The cast copes well with the limited material given to them . Craig makes an interesting heroic loner, while Ford seems to be relishing his first bad guy role since What Lies Beneath.  But Olivia Wilde seemes wasted with very mundane role. While Favreau has engineered a technically impressive and visually stunning blockbuster. It is also a vast improvement to his previous movie the terrible Iron Man 2.


Many Screenwriters took over ten years to come up with a workable script and it shows. Poorly developed and underwritten with too many secondary characters. The tone should have been lighter and funnier. Entertaining, but just nothing unique or exciting to recommend it. The fact it has been outsmurfed by those blue midgets says it all.


Reviewed by Paul Logan 

Super 8 ****

Running time: 111 mins  Certificate: 12A

Synopsis: In the summer of 1979, a group of young friends in a small Ohio town witness a catastrophic train crash while making a super 8 movie and soon suspect that it was not an accident. Soon after, unusual disappearances and inexplicable events begin to take place in town, and the local Deputy tries to uncover the truth.


Director J.J. Abrams pays homage to one of his childhood heroes Steven Spielberg, with this coming of age monster movie that harks back to a golden time for cinema during the late 70’s and early 80’s.


The key influence here is Spielberg’s early classics Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T., but there is also a hint of Stand By Me especially in many of the kids’ scenes. It is set in a small suburb, features central characters that have personal issues that are causing problems within the family, there is a chase sequence with bikes and of course the creature is an alien. Even the look of the film has the auteur’s vision, with images made up of brown and yellow hue colourings.


Abrams has done an excellent job with the casting, especially with the kid actors some of which have never acted before onscreen. They are just so natural and emphasis the sense of childhood innocence during this time. The child characters are very stereotypical, but this harks back to early Spielberg films. There are no star names only minor ones which is great because it gives more focus to the story.


The story itself is extremely well written and paced with an even mixture of action and drama. Characters are throughly developed from all sides.


It does suffer when the big reveal is exposed in the last half hour of the film. Abrams has made a pretty awful looking monster which appears to be a left over design from Cloverfield with a little of the spider  creature blended in for good measure.


Even although the creature is a disappointment, the movie is captivating purely due to the children’s stories and the young actors themselves. In a Summer full of disappointments it is a relief that finally an entertaining event film has finally reached our shores.

Reviewed by Paul Logan 

Cars 2 **

Running time: 112 mins  Certificate: U

Synopsis: Lightning McQueen (Wilson) and his tow truck buddy Mater (The Cable Guy) travel to Japan to compete in the World Grand Prix. But Mater is mistaken by British spies Finn McMissile (Caine) and Holley Shiftwell (Mortimer) as an American agent and helps them with their latest mission.

Many Pixar fans regard the original 2006 film to be the weakest in the company’s impressive collection of animated features. Can a sequel improve on the previous story ?


Unfortunately directors John Lasseter and Brad Lewis have created Pixar’s first cartoon bomb. The central problem is the story and in particular the overuse of annoying redneck character Mater, who was really irritating in the first film and even more so here.


The writers really do not know what the film is supposed to be is it a spy story or like the original is it a racing movie. By fusing the two together the overall concept simply does not work. This must be the first time that Pixar have come up with a really bad story.


Then there are the new voices from Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer and Eddie Izzard who seem rather flat and lifeless, almost like they are just doing an interview on a talk radio show. There is just no enthusiasm or expression in the tone of their sppech. Only John Turtturo makes an impression as a arrogant Italian race car.


The animation as anyone would expect from Pixar is pretty spectacular and probably their best to date. It is just unfortunate that they chose to revisit a animated movie that was not great in the first place. Hopefully with the upcoming Brave they can show that the visuals and the storytelling are a return to form.


Reviewed by Paul Logan 

Tree of Life *****

Running time: 139 mins  Certificate: 12A


Synopsis:  On the anniversary of his brother’s death, an architect Jack O’Brien (Penn) remembers memories of his troubled  childhood in 1950’s Waco, Texas, with his  relationship with his strict father (Pitt) and caring mother (Chastain).


In just under 40 years, auteur Terrence Malick has only made five features within that time. Each one of these films has to be said are all exceptional with some of the best looking shots ever exposed on film.


For his latest film, Malick takes a personal subject (his younger brother committed suicide) and takes a whole new approach to making something which is slightly semi-autobiographical. It starts off with a serious of flashbacks remembered by Sean Penn’s character showing his earliest memories of his mother and father and the birth of his younger brother.


Then twenty minutes into the piece it ultimately turns into something different with not only showing the creation of a new life, but the creation of the universe and the big bang. With this follows a serious of stunning, bizarre and strange mixture of locations from galaxies, deserts and  prehistoric jungles. There is even a sequence involving a wounded plesiosaur lying on a beach, while another dinosaur comes along puts it’s foot on the neck of the other one and then moves on.


What is Malick trying to say in this sequence is unclear. Is it about existence or evolution or creation. One thing is for certain is that everyone who sees this film will have their own interpretation. 


Then we are taken back to Jack’s childhood and the relationship between him, his mother and his father. The mother figure provides the narration throughout, which ties in with the whole mother nature idealogy within the story. She is a kind, sensitive quiet soul who has to live with and endure her complex, bitter, disciplinarian husband. The couple are very much in love, but as the father takes more of his problems out on the children the marriage becomes strained.


Brad Pitt gives an astonishingly mature performance to his role and should certainly be considered for an Oscar nomination. Even although we as an audience tend to feel for the other members of the family more, there is some sympathy to be had for the father. The man has become disenchanted with his own life. His dream seems to have been becoming a musician, but he has failed in living up to that ambition and instead has resulted in working a mundane blue collar job. While it is not right that he takes his frustration out on his family, it is easy to see how he is feeling inside. 


The film has taken three years and five editors in order to make the finished piece. Mallick blends his stunning imagery with a mixture of classical music, which blends together beautifully.


While it is possibly Malick’s weakest film, in that at times it does not flow as well as it should and the ending feels like an abandoned television commercial. Tree of Life is also one of the most striking, well acted visually exciting films of the year. The movie will certainly split audiences, but given a chance is a very rewarding experience.


Reviewed by Paul Logan 

Hobo With A Shotgun: *

Running time: 82 mins  Certificate: 18

Synopsis: Homeless stranger (Rutger Hauer) rides the freight train into a hellish town run by Drake (Brian Downey) and his vicious sons.  When the hobo prevents one of Drake’s sons from hurting a prostitute he makes a citizen’s arrest, only to find the local cops are on Drake’s payroll.  The hobo buys himself a shotgun and starts serving his own brand of justice. 


This promised so much.  It’s called ‘Hobo with a Shotgun’ for a start.  What’s not to love about the title?  It stars 80’s action hero Rutger Hauer, whose CV includes ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’ (Gary Sherman 1986), ‘Blind Fury’ (Philip Noyce 1989), and ‘Salute of the Jugger (David Peoples 1989).  The villain is played by Brian Downey from the deranged sci-fi show ‘LEXX,’ and there is plenty of gratuitous nudity and violence. Hauer even delivers a monologue about grizzly bears that I suspect he wrote himself.  Yet director Jason Eisener blows it. 


‘Hobo with a Shotgun’ replicates the experience of watching a grindhouse movie, but not in the way the filmmakers intended.  Angela Carter once wrote ‘the virtue of low art is it can transcend itself’ and some of the 70’s exploitation films do.  There is a mad kind of beauty in the best of them and some even try to say something about the human condition.  Yet the truth is most of these films were rubbish.  Like ‘Hobo with a Shotgun’ their premises, or trailers, or titles, or posters, would promise much more than the filmmakers had actually put on screen.  The best moment here is a cameo appearance by a bottle of J & B Whisky, a brand that seemed to specialise in sponsoring Italian exploitation films of the 70’s and would often turn up in blatant examples of product placement in Dario Argento movies and the ‘Black Emanuelle’ franchise. 


In recent years there has been an increase in pastiches of a particular style of filmmaking belonging to the past.  The obvious attraction of these movies for filmmakers is they allow them to pass comment on the politically incorrect thrills of the past while simultaneously replicating them.  Eisener doesn’t have the talent to do either.  ‘Hobo with a Shotgun’ is trash rather than trashy and there is a huge difference between the two. 

by Kevin Sturton

Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part II ***

Running time: 130 mins  Certificate: 12A

Synopsis:  Harry (Radcliffe), Ron (Grint) and Hermione (Watson) are still searching for the hidden Horcrux, while Voldemort (Fiennes) plans to attack Hogwarts and finally kill the boy wizard.


After 10 years, the popular saga comes to the end and a lot has been riding on this moment for the fans of the films and books. The movie picks up from the first part which in itself was a rather drawn out, dull and lifeless entity .


Part 2 succeeds in correcting the mistakes of the previous installment, but is still a bitter disappointment on what should have been a really exciting finish to the finale. The problem for the most part is David Yates, who directed the previous three films. He can make a movie look great visually, but when it comes to pacing it is just all over the place with a lot of the comedic moments being badly timed. Not to mention the ending where even though it is several years later, it appears that none of them have aged at all and look like they should be going back to school.


The story also has problems with very little interaction between the characters, apart from Harry and Voldemort. There is also too much going on plot wise with many questions being raised and various  cast members having very little to do, especially Robbie Coltrane who appears briefly in a few scenes but serves no real purpose to drive the story forward.


The deaths of various characters also seems strange as we only know they have been killed once we see their bodies lying in Hogwarts, there are no scenes where it shows how they have died.  The showdown between Harry and Voldemort is also a huge letdown, which amounts to nothing more than over extended fireworks fight between two wizards.


That is not to say that there are not some great moments. The opening involving breaking into Gringott’s Bank is generally exciting, a flashback revolving aroung Snape is interesting and Potter’s frantic search for the Horcrux in Hogwarts is thrilling. The special effects and sets are as usual quite spectacular and believe it or not the acting is probably the best in the series.


The franchise has never really recovered from the bar raised by Alfonso Cuarón‘s brillant take on Prisoner of Azkaban. By keeping with TV director David Yates, the producers have turned a promising series into unexciting effects driven movies.


Another problem is splitting the final book into two films which is understandable from a fan’s point of view, but it clearly does not work as a piece of cinema. It could have been made as a 2 1/2  hour film by reducing the story of part one to the first hour. In doing this it would have been more intense and exciting conclusion, than just an average run of the mill blockbuster.




Reviewed by Paul Logan